Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is more than professional shoplifting. ORC encompasses a multitude of theft and fraud schemes that occur in and through retail environments, thus negatively impacting commerce and undermining consumer and public safety.

Offenders involved in ORC commit crimes, to include theft, fraud and other property crimes in order to illegally obtain merchandise. Those stolen or fraudulently obtained items are, in turn, reentered into commerce through storefront businesses, pawn shops, private persons, and person(s) engaged in online commerce in order to obtain money, which is oftentimes utilized to support other unlawful acts. These offenders are known as “boosters”, and the storefronts/persons that take in the stolen merchandise are known as “fencing” operations. “Re-pack” operations sometimes redistribute these items through the black-market, both nationally and overseas. Boosters, oftentimes working in sophisticated and coordinated teams, travel regionally in order to fulfill the demand for illegal goods. Additionally, these “boosters” often commit other crimes, and are often known as chronic offenders to the agencies that have contact with them on a regular basis.

Furthermore, organized regional and transnational groups have formed criminal enterprises to commit a variety of financial crimes. These include identity theft, public aid fraud, cargo theft, money laundering, credit card, and bank fraud. ORC and related organized crime syndicates cost legitimate businesses, American taxpayers, and our government over thirty billion dollars per year.

Organized criminal enterprises often operate in the form of semi-legitimate businesses that commit an ongoing and diverse series of these crimes. Each of these enterprises is connected to numerous other similar criminal enterprises that work together as a conspiracy to commit these crimes. Oftentimes, the crimes committed by the “booster”, “mule”, or other low-level criminal that feed into the larger conspiracies receive little enforcement, investigative, or prosecutorial attention from the criminal justice system, thus increasing the lucrative nature of these crimes.

Many of these criminal enterprises finance and become a conduit for other criminal activity including violence, narcotics trafficking, and gang activity. Fencing operations, in particular, contribute to neighborhood decay by providing demand for illegally obtained property, supporting addictive behavior by providing quick cash for stolen products, acting as a hub for quality-of-life crimes, and discouraging legitimate, sustainable businesses from earning honest profits, creating jobs, attracting loyal customers, and growing their business. This activity creates an environment ripe for violence, saps police of needed resources, and perpetuates the complex problems facing the low-income, high-crime at-risk neighborhoods in which they operate.

While the local impact is not negligible, the broader effects can be even more detrimental. Groups tied to ORC and the above-described criminal activity expands across the Midwest and internationally. These groups have laundered millions of dollars abroad, some of which have financed terrorist and international crime syndicates.

In 2014, a group of dedicated law enforcement, crime analysts, corporate fraud and loss prevention investigators, and prosecutors created the Twin Cities Organized Retail Crime Association (TCORCA), 501c4 nonprofit corporation, as a private/public partnership to battle these criminal enterprises. The private sector, often victimized by these crimes, has provided their expertise and support, while law enforcement has increased their efforts to apply their investigative skills, tools, and legal authority to hold these criminals to account, working hand-in-hand with prosecutors to ensure best practices in enforcement and the building of cases.

TCORCA grew into a state-wide effort, and is now incorporated as the Minnesota Organized Retail Crime Association (MNORCA). A secure website, complying with data privacy law, was created to share real-time crime information and intelligence on these groups to enhance the identification of offenders and the targeting of criminal enterprises. MNORCA strives to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness by minimizing redundancy and maximizing investigative potential through regional quarterly information meetings, on-going training seminars, public policy initiatives, and an annual conference.

Through a multi-jurisdictional and discipline approach, MNORCA seeks to provide the platform to improve the investigation and prosecution of ORC and related organized crime cases, maximize the retention and recovery of assets, centralize intelligence, combine resources, increase trust between the public and private sector, and make our businesses and neighborhoods safer and more profitable places.